By Hans Ebert
The above shows the huge generation gap in the music industry- some young promotion girl thinking that the great Annie Lennox is an undiscovered talent who might have the potential to be more than she is.
Dear gawd, who hires these gremlins and has the world become one paean to The Peter Principle where mediocrity and incompetence is rewarded? This A&R and promotions genius never thought of looking up the name Annie Lennox on Google? She might have even discovered the iconic singer’s early days with Dave A Stewart in Eurythmics. And what a brilliant duo they made.
Has there always been this chasm when it comes to appreciating music or is this part of today’s brave new social media driven world where there’s so much of everything that so much of everything falls straight through the cracks?
Growing up, when casually introduced as a kid by my musician father to artists like Nat King Cole, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Benny Goodman, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Ella Fitzgerald, Errol Garner, Peggy Lee, Julie London etc and those timeless standards written by all the great Tin Pan Alley, this music stayed with me while the world and my older cousins were in the throes of Beatlemania and the entire British Beat Boom invasion- The Dave Clark V, the Kinks, the Hollies, Manfred Mann, the Searchers, the Stones, the very underrated Zombies and Animals etc etc.
Looking back, one guesses it was “collecting” music as the soundtrack to the journey of life continued and still continues today. And when reading who had inspired all these bands, it meant going back and discovering the old Sun Recordings, Bluesmen like Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Robert Johnson and, of course, Little Richard and Chuck Berry, all of which led to making one’s own musical discoveries.
There was always a friendly game of oneupmanship between friends where we wanted to share “our” music. But more than this, the interest and knowledge and appreciation for all this musical creativity definitely had an effect on honing our writing skills. When picking up an instrument for the first time, our self taught lessons in music history eventually had some of us try our hand at writing original songs. These might not have been shining examples of brilliance, but it was a start and which later helped some of us to know intuitively what was derivative and what was not. If getting into A&R when entering the workforce and being hired by a music company, this served many of us well. It meant knowing a music company’s back catalogue as well as being able to hear something special and sign up new talent. It was all about having an inquisitive mind to absorb as much music as possible as a labour of love.
Is this same commitment and passion for “collating” music still around today. Definitely. Just listen to how Selena Gomez has reinvented herself. Her “Bad Liar” is brilliant.
This same dedication is there in the songs of young new artists whom you just know have done their homework. They understand and respect the past and know how to make their music relevant today. If they want Bruno Mars type fame and success, or that of an artist like Pharrell who has liberally “borrowed” influences from Sly and the Family Stone, Marvin Gaye and every single James Brown recording, or wish to see how one can take total ownership of the music created and be happy with moderate success, it’s their call.
The problem that could stunt many new artists is having no mentors to guide them. Creating a DIY world is fine. But right here and now, all hell has broken loose and confusion reigns regarding real success and fake success and not hearing that this is as good as it’s going to get for many who are simply not good enough, or at least not ready for prime time yet.
Unfortunately, the illusion of fame and success comes so easily today that it’s created an unhealthy culture with too many setting their selfie heights way too high and way too quickly and with no one there to catch them when they fall.
The need to attend the school of music street smarts is the best learning grounds. Sadly, it seems this particular school’s out forever.